First ever: Artificial intelligence used for AMC Flight Commander Course

By Airman 1st Class Ariel Owings | Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs | Oct. 2, 2019

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. —

Instructors from the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Flight Commander Course incorporated Air University’s live simulation – Mixed Reality Leadership Exercise into the class for the first time in Air Mobility Command, Sept. 27 on Joint Base MDL.

The three-day class originated under AMC until General David L. Goldfein, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, mandated every wing to have a course that would focus on key skills needed to succeed and start targeting development as part of an overall talent management effort.

Incorporating the AI simulation into the class empowers one of Goldfein’s line of efforts of “Strengthen Squadron Leadership and Culture,” teaching the importance of improving Air Force squadrons. According to U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Andrew Clayton, AU assistant professor assigned to Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, that outside of AU, there had been no path put in place to enable course instructors’ access to use the tool.

With the help of Clayton, and U.S. Air Force Maj. Chase Bradley, 305th Air Mobility Wing chief of Commander’s Action Group, they developed a leadership lab during the course as a capstone event to allow flight commander’s the opportunity to utilize tools such as emotional intelligence, feedback and first sergeants.

“I read an article on AU’s Leadership Development Course back in March and decided to reach out to see if this was a resource we might be able to tap into,” said Bradley. “Our overall goal was to provide an academic environment where students could practice these skills first before being thrust into a flight commander role where they may face these situations.”

The simulation gives a more realistic practice to complex interpersonal skills. Used in a professional development course, it challenges students to be more attentive to aspects like body language or tone of voice of the individual.

In the capstone event, one student runs through the simulation while others watch. This allows them to see the process and techniques used and discuss together what was done well or what could have been done better. Each individual comes from a different background and different experiences. The discussions allow the students to potentially learn new techniques from each other that help them grow as leaders.

“It was a phenomenal experience,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Christine Kloss, 108th Wing deployment officer. “I was the last one to go, so as I was giving critiques I thought to myself ‘wow, it’s so easy to be on the other side than when you’re actually having the conversation.’ When I knew I was going up, I felt a little insecure, but I think what I gave would be what I would give in that situation because it did feel so incredibly real. It was really helpful, because there wasn’t any giggling from us just role playing.”

Per Goldfein, commanding a flight is the first level of command. Strengthening the culture of a squadron begins by acknowledging that commanders set the standards for their units with actions, words and deeds. Without empathy, interpersonal communication can dissolve and leave morale of the workforce depleted.

“This program would be really beneficial if it can be implemented not only in the Flight Commander Course, but in Officer Training School or the [United States Air Force] Academy to broaden the experience,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Jiahua Ye, 108th Wing deputy OIC. “Young lieutenants who just graduated at 21 or 22-years old are not going to understand how to counsel people who are maybe twice their age. When running a military operation, we need to understand what people are actually feeling and what kind of impact we can have on [their] lives based on how we handle the situation.”

Utilizing AI gives perspective on how to take care of Airmen. If Airmen lose focus on themselves, they can lose focus on the mission. Incorporating AU’s live simulation – Mixed Reality Leadership Exercise in the Flight Commander Course is an effort to restore readiness at the fundamental fighting organization of the United States Air Force – the squadron.